Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The County Fair and Crowder

In our area, the schools will be starting Fall classes this week and the next. Our homeschool still has a few weeks left of summer vacation before we get underway after Labor Day, so we're doing our best to squeeze in a few more fun activities before then. Our city's County Fair was this past week, and that was a must do excursion for us. We enjoy taking in as many of the animals, exhibits, and fair food as possible, but our favorite by far is the Draft Horses event. Seeing the gorgeous Clydesdale horses in all of their finery, pulling the wagons with style and elegance is the highlight of the whole fair. I'm definitely not the best photographer, especially with a moving subject, but here are a few...

The fun didn't end with the fair. Our church closed out its Summer Revival with an excellent message from Levi Lusko, and a concert that included Vertical Church Band, Jon and Val Guerra, and Crowder! With over 10,000 people in attendance, it was a wonderful afternoon/evening. What a great way to close out the summer, and get ready for fall!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Summer Revival

Summer is quickly writing its conclusion for this year, and in some ways, it feels as if our family has missed the typical rest that the season promises. Fortunately, this weekend, we  were able to find refreshment and fellowship with friends at a summer revival that our church is hosting for its 30th anniversary. Our congregation, and anyone else really, has had the privilege of listening to some very gifted pastors, teachers, and musicians. Last night, we were thrilled to sit under the teaching of Greg Laurie, who brought an encouraging and convicting message. Other festivities of the day included a vintage car show, and a concert by Christian Hip Hop/Gospel artist, KB, which thrilled my 14 year old to no end. It was a great time. What did you dot his weekend?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Home School In The Woods - A Crew Review

I wonder if families that choose to homeschool their children ever take a moment to consider how blessed we are to have the freedom to make such an educational choice. It was only a few decades ago, that families who did so would be breaking the law. Today, not only is homeschooling legal, it is steadily increasing everywhere. No longer only for the denim jumper wearing crowd, families from all kinds of backgrounds have embraced the many benefits of homeschooling. With the increase in popularity, there has also been the increase of curriculum, products, and other resources, specifically for the homeschool crowd. No doubt about it, it is a wonderful time to be a homeschooler

I've been homeschooling my daughters for ten years now, and after all of that time, there are certain curriculums and resources that have become family favorites. I have the Homeschool Review Crew to thank for introducing our family to many of those, including one that is the focus of this particular post. Home School In The Woods  has managed to stay in our top ten list for a long time now, due to their abounding  variety of downloadable resources for lapbooks, unit studies and more, to make the study of History come alive for kids. We've been reviewing the Project Passport World History Studies, specifically the Middle Ages .

In case you were thinking that a digital download would be lacking in the content and thorough study that a physical textbook provides, you would be wrong! This resource is absolutely crammed with material. This is important to know, because you'll definitely want to set aside some time to carefully look over all of the components of this study. Speaking for myself, I LOVE this part. I'm a curriculum geek, and if I have a few hours, or even a whole afternoon to read through, and plan various courses, I am seriously jazzed. Dorky? Perhaps, but it relaxes me, lol. 
Needless to say, this Project Passport study kept me busy.

Students ranging from grades 3-8 will enjoy this study. This is a fantastic option for kids who need more than busy work. Filled with interactive activities, crafts, audio stories in mp3 format, cooking and building projects, the Middle Ages will be a fun learning experience for anyone who likes to get creative.
There are 25 learning "Stops" that can be worked through in 6-12 weeks, depending on your pace and interests. Included in this download are, covers for your binder(s), teacher keys, text for lessons, mp3's, pdf's for the travel itineraries and stops, masters for everything that needs to be printed for crafting, instructions for putting your lapbook together, and images. The pages include detailed directions and color photos to help put it all together. Not included are the extra supplies for various activities, such as glue sticks, double sided tape, file folders, card stock, etc. Many if not most of the necessary items will already be in your home.

What material will be covered? Oh man, I could go on at length over the featured topics. Students will cover the years called the Middles Ages. This will include studying:  

- Barbarians
- Everyday Life
-The Church
- The Crusades
-The Vikings
- The Hundred Years War
- The Wars of Scottish Independence
-The Peasant's Revolt

Her boots looked as if they could be worn with some of the Middle Ages type of clothing.

Building a sugar cube castle takes time and patience, but it's fun!

That is merely a sample of the pages and pages of detailed text, crafts, activities, and other projects. What an in depth, engaging study! Now, it isn't uncommon in our household that I may love a product or curriculum, but one or both of my girls can't see the appeal. I'm happy to say that in the case of Project Passport: The Middle Ages , we're all in agreement. With each activity, my 12 year old often pipes up with a "This is so cool". We've been moving through the lessons at a more relaxed pace than we will when we "officially" begin the next school year, but we'll be continuing this study, and more after that. My daughter has been looking ahead and making note of the activities that are coming next, with anticipation. Whenever a resource elicits enthusiastic responses from my kids, it's a keeper. I have never been disappointed with Home School In The Woods, and I'll happily encourage any and every family to give one or more studies a go. 

One more piece of great news! The new Project Passport Ancient Rome is now available! Check it out!

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Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Sunday, July 29, 2018

We Did It!

Ah, finally. After a month of intense practice, tears, and frustration, it's over. My girls finished their audition videos for the homeschool band that that has been a major part of our life for the past three years. It's a wonderful group of families. Every year, I marvel at the way that literally hundreds of people get along together so well. Band night is the favorite day of the week in our household.

This is the most stressful time of the year, as the girls prepare for the new year, and determine which seat they'll have. After a long day of taping yesterday, it's done! Today, after a great time of worship at church, we've enjoyed one great exhale before another busy week. I hope that you've had a great weekend too!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Smart Kidz Media - A Crew Review

Some of my best memories involve listening to stories on record (yes I said record, I'm that old, lol), and music. As far as the music went, it didn't matter too much what genre it was, because I enjoyed a wide variety of styles. Country, bluegrass, pop, rock...I enjoyed all of those. That love for music and books has carried over into my adulthood. I'm thrilled to say that both of my daughters have also shared a love for those same things from the time they were very small. It's interesting how my viewpoint on what is acceptable and what is inappropriate has changed from when I was younger. They say that ignorance is bliss, and it is often true, that many adult themes pass over the heads of younger littles, and (fortunately) they miss the message. In cases where the content is not what children should hear (and really if they shouldn't listen, should adults be listening?), wouldn't it be great to have a reliable, safe, resource for parents to use with their kids?

Okay, that's my cue to tell you about the radio station that the girls and I have been listening to, and reviewing this month. Smart Kidz Radio is a live radio station available from Smart Kidz Media. Finally, a radio station created specifically for children ranging from early childhood to early elementary. Available for streaming through your computer or mobile device, this is a resource that may be used any time during the day or night. I love how their website describes it as an "edutainment radio station for kids". Oh, and guess what? It's FREE.

Anyone can sign up and listen to the "hundreds of original... songs and stories that promote positive values". Creating your account is easy. Once you get to the website, follow the prompts, create a password, and start listening. Unlike other online programs that stop the content when you exit, this is a live radio station, so you won't pick up at the same song that you were listening to before signing out of the site.

Regarding the songs, they are fun, whimsical, catchy, silly, and all around upbeat. In between the tracks, there are short positive messages, as in maybe 15 seconds or so, if that long. The overall tone that comes across is mellow, relaxing, peaceful. What this website is not, I'm happy to say, is a version of certain materials that were originally made up of adult songs, but recreated and sung by children. I typically never liked those, because if the message of the original included questionable messages, how would having a child sing it (albeit omitting certain words but still), make it a better choice? 

There's more to this site than songs. There are also podcasts of fairytales and other stories. When you click on the podcast icon, the list of available selections comes up, including the length of each story- I like that! You know which will fit into your space of time. Here is a sampling of titles available:

- Alice in Wonderland
- Cinderella
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Hansel and Gretel
- The Tortoise and the Hare
- Treasure Island
- Aladdin and his Magic Lamp
- The Three Little Pigs
- The Three Musketeers

These stories remind me so much, of the stories I would listen to as a little girl. What a great way to help a child settle in for naptime, a long car ride, or any other time where you need a healthy distraction for your little one. I would have loved to have Smart Kidz Radio for my daughters when they were small. Do your children like to have something to listen to at bedtime? Mine always did, and still do actually. This station would be a great option for kids who may have some anxiety at night. If I was still teaching preschool in a classroom, this would definitely be what I would be playing as the children worked and played. I'm keeping this in mind for those days when I help out with little ones in that type of setting.

My girls are now at and approaching the teen years, so while this would not be on their regular playlist, they freely acknowledged that this is a fantastic option for littles. They also agreed that they would have loved it if they were younger. My oldest may have been embarrassed at the  high degree of enthusiasm that I displayed at this website, ha! Before I'm done here, I want to mention that there is an option to upgrade to an on demand option, if you discover that you love the content, and want access to additional material. For either $3.99 a month, or $39.00 a year, you'll have the radio station, plus access to more songs that feature life skills, good behavior, bedtime songs, relaxation songs, and more. There are also a few more, different stories available in this paid option, including Bible Stories, fairy tales, and "not so scary" tales. Whether you stay with the free membership, or opt for the upgrade, this is a wonderful resource that would be great in your home or classroom. 

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Smart Kidz Radio {Smart Kidz Media Reviews}

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Great Waters Press - No Longer Little - A Crew Review

A long time ago, or so it seems, back when I was pregnant with my oldest, now 14 year old daughter, I had a few routine tests done at the doctor's office, which revealed a possible problem. Praise the Lord, all did end up being fine, and later that year I delivered my sweet girl. I remember thinking at that time, "I just need to get through this pregnancy, and then I'll be finished with my worrying." Spoken, or thought in this case, as a naïve, first time mom. A mother NEVER stops worrying. Many, if not most of us find ourselves telling ourselves, "If I can only get through - the terrible two's, the threenager three's, etc., that then it will all be better, and we can relax. Nope. We have been entrusted with our children, and with that privilege, comes the responsibility to guide them towards adulthood. The journey of parenthood often finds us worrying if we're doing the this job the "right" way, if our kids are normal, and so on. If you are a follower of Jesus, you will already know that the Bible commands us not to worry. Any parent will tell you that often, that is a hard commandment to follow!

You may already be familiar with the names Hal and Melanie Young. They are well known for their practical, Biblically based books and resources to help in the task of raising boys into Godly men. As our family has girls, I confess that I haven't often taken the time to look at many of their publications. But then, this review became available, and our two worlds collided. I have two daughters, one in the throes of "tweendom", and one just barely into the teen years. Through the Homeschool Review Crew, I had the opportunity to read and review their book No Longer Little - Parenting Tweens With Grace and Hope , by Great Waters Press . Oh, my, can you say, instant fan?! There is no exaggeration on my part when I tell you that this book arrived at the best possible time. As I read through the pages, I was saying to myself, yes, that's my daughter, so is that, and so is that, as well as a hearty thank you, it's normal! 

Twelve chapters will introduce and explain the following:

Chapter 1 - Getting Bigger: Hormones and Body Changes

Chapter 2 - The Rollercoaster: Emotional Upheaval

Chapter 3 - Brains Turn To Mush: Why School Goes Awry

Chapter 4 - Many a Conflict, Many a Doubt: Spiritual Questioning

Chapter 5 - The Awakening: Sexuality and Virtue

Chapter 6 - Social Struggles: Overcoming Awkwardness

Chapter 7 - Media, Gaming, and Discernment: More Than Amusement

Chapter 8 - Conflict At Home: Family Relationships

Chapter 9 - Youth in the Bible: Youth in the Bible

Chapter 10 - Celebrating Growth: Coming of Age Ceremonies

Chapter 11 - Producers, not Consumers: Work and Stewardship

Chapter 12 - The Next Big Thing: High School and Beyond

I had barely finished the Introduction of this book when I knew that this was going to speak to my life. That first page addressed a similar conversation that I had just had with my oldest daughter. Wow. Talk about God's timing. The first chapters lay the groundwork by explaining the intense physical changes that a tween goes through as adolescence begins. It's funny, because I felt comforted as I read. The text confirmed much of the same facts and information that I have been telling my girls for a couple of years now. I've continued to tell them  that they are normal, and that their emotions have a lot to do with the flood of hormones that their body is releasing as they make the transition to womanhood. 

 And ohhhhh, the hormones are great. Did you know that "both sexes have hormonal surges exceeding fifty times the normal, stable levels they have in adulthood?" (Page 7 from No Longer Little ) As a matter of fact, those hormones are on full display in my house, at this very moment, as I have one VERY emotional child sobbing over something that in my adult mind, is a non issue, but to her, the world is ending. Excuse me while I take a moment to hug this book, and cram a piece of dark chocolate in my mouth. Not kidding.

So, I had a basic understanding of the hormonal part of things regarding the entry into puberty, but the spiritual aspect was lower on my radar. I'm telling you, it was God's timing that I read this book at this stage in life. I didn't realize how common it is for middle schoolers to begin questioning the validity of Scripture, and even God's existence. The day before I began reading the book, my daughter came to me with some big questions about just such things. I'm happy to say, that by God's grace, I stayed calm and asked her to tell me what she was struggling with, but on the inside, I freely admit that I was a bit shaken. I was blown away when I read the very next day, that this was a common occurrence during these tween/teen years. Cue me exhaling!

I devoured the rest of the book. There were so many sections that I wanted to remember and go back to later.  I have a lot of bookmarks in my upstairs dresser, but I didn't want to put the book down to get them, so I ended up using Kleenex from the box next to me. By the time that I was finished, my book was bulging with Kleenex, lol. 

I noticed a recurring theme throughout the book, which is, "Don't freak out!" Both Hal and Melanie speak of "de-fanging the serpent", lol.  That is to say, appreciate the physical changes occurring physically and emotionally in your child, and  do everything you can to respond, rather than react to their emotional outbursts. I need to read those words again, for sure. The authors guide us in learning when to stay calm and avoid joining in your child's chaos when it happens. And we know it will happen. 

The middle of the book tackles that oh so uncomfortable topic of sexuality, and how we can not only discuss it with our kids, but how to implement protective measures, and guide them in Biblical patterns of thought. They bring up pornography and the differences in how men and women tend to seek it out. Boys and men are visual, and tend to gravitate to videos and such, and while women can and do take that route too, the issue of "story porn" was brought up. That would be the written word, as in many of the trashy novels available. The bottom line is, have those tough conversations with your kids, and also take preventive measures in putting in filters for your Internet, and do it now! It may be embarrassing at first, but letting your child know that you are a safe person to speak with will not only help your relationship, it can also help your kids learn to make Godly decisions in the future. 

As you come to the end of the book, it's with a look to the future, and how parents can be teaching their children what responsible adulting looks like, for lack of a better phrase. That is presented in teaching when it may be a good idea to pay for chores, and when not to, what contributing to the family looks like, and how to be responsible consumers. 

I love an example that the Young's use regarding the latter, through a letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend in 1779. Franklin tells a story of how as a boy, he received some money, but then spent more than he should have on a toy whistle. His friends and family laughed at him saying he could have bought so much more if he hadn't wasted his money on that whistle. Franklin goes on to provide examples of how in life you can "Give too much for that whistle", whether it's through being a cheapskate, or foolish, or mean. I'm paraphrasing quite a bit. It's a fantastic letter, and I read it to my kids right after reading it. I think our new family phrase very well may be - Don't give too much for that whistle".

Also near the end, they talk about the differences in being a teenager some decades ago versus this modern age, and the significance that can be had by holding a coming of age ceremony for our kids as they enter the teen years. This might be compared to a bar mitzvah, with various older adults of the same gender offering words of encouragement and truth. I love this idea, and at first I thought it might be too late to do this with my oldest, as she already began her teen years. But of course we still can! She just graduated 8th grade, so what a great time to gather friends and family, and speak into her life. 

At the bottom of every page, there are notes and references provided for extra study. As you reach the end of the book there is a generous reference section, one for other related books, and then a Scripture  reference section. The very last pages provide an index to look up various topics at a quick glance.

I love this book, I  mean, really love it. This is a must have for every Christian family that is or will be navigating the often choppy waters of the tween/teen years. The arrival of this book  was perfect for me. Even if you think that you know what to expect during these adolescent years, I bet you'll find some truths here that will have you breathing a sigh of relief. Should I ever get the opportunity to meet Hal and Melanie Young, I'm going to give them a hug, and offer my heartfelt thank you to them. 

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Read more Crew reviews about this book, No Longer Little- Parenting Tweens With Grace and Hope , as well as the book  Love, Honor, and Virtue: Gaining or Regaining a Biblical View Toward Sexuality by clicking the banner below!

Love, Honor, and Virtue  AND No Longer Little {Great Waters Press Reviews}

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Today, my husband and I celebrated 23 years of marriage. I know a lot of couples zip off for romantic getaways, but we're homebodies, and we decided to make it a family weekend. We had originally planned to spend the day yesterday walking around the downtown area of a nearby lakefront city, but the iffy weather forecast encouraged us to change plans, So, to the delight of our girls, we spent the day at the mall of all places, lol. Today, we had a great time of worship at church, and then puttered around here and there. It probably sounds boring to anyone else, but we had a lovely weekend. I'm finding that after 2+ decades of marriage, my expectations are lower, and the simple things really do satisfy me as much as the grander gestures. I must say though, I was very happily surprised at a beautiful ring that my husband gave me. He also wrote a sweet letter recounting our years together. We let the girls each pick a mini cake to share after dinner. All in all , it was a good weekend.

23 years ago 

The youngest chose a unicorn cake.

The oldest chose a cookies and cream cake.

My beautiful ring.